The SARS-CoV-2 Delta Variant’s Impact on Dogs: What You Need to Know

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The world has been grappling with the challenges posed by the SARS-CoV-2 Delta variant, primarily concerning its effects on humans. However, recent research indicates that our four-legged companions might also be at risk. A groundbreaking study from Konkuk University in South Korea has provided insights into the neurological consequences of the Delta variant in dogs.

The Study and Its Findings

Researchers at Konkuk University embarked on a mission to understand the Delta variant’s effects on dogs. They intranasally infected six female beagle dogs with the virus. Interestingly, these infected dogs were housed with six uninfected counterparts, while another trio of uninfected dogs were used as controls.

Over a series of intervals post-infection, the team collected samples from the dogs and conducted necropsies. Their findings were startling:

  • SARS-CoV-2 DNA was present in the brain of infected dogs, but only during the 10th, 12th, and 14th weeks post-infection.
  • These dogs’ blood-brain barrier (BBB) underwent abnormal changes, especially around the 38th, 40th, and 42nd days.
  • Necropsies revealed severe damage to the BBB cells, with the virus crossing this barrier.
  • The changes observed were consistent with small vessel disease (SVD) symptoms, typically caused by the narrowing or blockage of small blood vessels in the brain.
  • Staining of brain sections further revealed neuroinflammatory responses in the white matter of infected dogs, and there was evidence of immune cell infiltration leading to a thickened lung alveolar septum.

Broader Implications and Public Health Concerns

The implications of this study are vast. The fact that the SARS-CoV-2 Delta variant can damage both the brain and lungs in dogs, even without evident respiratory or neurological symptoms, is alarming. This raises concerns about a potential long-lasting COVID-19-like syndrome in affected dogs.

Moreover, the detection of the Delta variant in domestic animals, as evidenced by a study from Thailand, emphasizes the need for continuous surveillance in pets due to the human-animal interface.

Implications for the Public Health Workforce

The findings underscore the importance of a One Health approach, recognizing the interconnectedness of human, animal, and environmental health. Public health professionals must:

  • Advocate for regular surveillance of SARS-CoV-2 in domestic pets.
  • Educate pet owners about potential risks and preventive measures.
  • Collaborate with veterinarians and other stakeholders to monitor and manage potential outbreaks.
  • Ensure that guidelines and protocols are in place for the safe handling and care of pets that may be infected.

Conclusion

As we continue to navigate the intricacies of the pandemic, it’s imperative to remain vigilant for the sake of both humans and our furry friends. The findings from the Konkuk University study serve as a reminder of the far-reaching implications of the SARS-CoV-2 Delta variant and the need for a unified approach to public health.

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